It can be hard to move forward after losing a loved one to suicide. We look at ways you can learn to cope with loss.

Suicide affects many people each year. If you have lost someone to suicide you may feel periods of intense grief, and this grief can be overwhelming.

Losing someone to suicide can raise difficult questions, and sometimes the answers aren’t available to you. This can make the process of grieving and finding closure more painful.

The loss may never stop affecting you — but there are healthy ways to deal with grief. Finding adequate support and taking care of yourself can help you heal.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that in 2020, there were approximately 46,000 deaths by suicide in the United States. It is a leading cause of death in the United States, and suicide rates were about 30% higher in 2020 than in 2000.

These numbers show that suicide impacts many people, families, and friends. So, you may ask, what are some things I can do to cope? Here are four ways you can work toward healing.

Joining a support group has numerous benefits for those who are grieving. It allows you to connect with others who have had similar experiences and have an outlet to express your emotions.

Grief support groups may also help you learn new skills to cope with the grieving process. Talking with others can help you realize that your thoughts, feelings, and reactions are expected and that other people experience them, too.

In a 2019 qualitative study of individuals bereaved by suicide, participants noted that, due to the social stigma and isolation, the social connection aspect of support groups — such as being around others who have been through the same thing — helped them feel less alone.

Finding ways to honor your loved one may help you deal with intense emotional reactions to grief. Grief rituals that are common after losing someone may include:

  • having a funeral
  • having a visitation
  • celebrating their life

After this, there may be individual or collective rituals that you may find helpful in honoring your loved one. A 2021 study on funerals and grief rituals involving 552 individuals suggests that there are common grief rituals people use after the loss, including:

  • visiting a gravesite
  • creating a space or altar in memory of the person
  • having a remembrance ceremony
  • sharing stories about the deceased with friends and family
  • seeking grief counseling
  • lighting a candle for your loved one

The researchers note that both individual and collective rituals helped people cope with the loss. Finding a way to honor the memory of your loved one may be helpful for you, too.

The grief process looks different for everyone. There’s a common misconception about there being 5 stages of grief, but this isn’t backed by evidence.

The truth is grief can bring up several strong emotions. While you may experience anger, sadness, guilt, or depression, there isn’t a linear progression of grief that everyone experiences similarly.

Finding an outlet or way to deal with those emotions can help you grieve in a healthy way. For example, you may feel comfortable talking with a friend or loved one about your feelings and how you’re coping.

Some people may experience prolonged grief disorder (PGD).

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition, text revision (DSM-5-TR), for a diagnosis of PGD the symptoms must be present for at least one year and include distinct symptoms of grief.

Symptoms of PGD include:

  • an extreme longing to be with the deceased loved one
  • obsessive thoughts or memories about the loved one
  • trouble re-engaging in relationships or activities since the death
  • disbelief about your loved one passing
  • losing all hope or sense of meaning in your life
  • loneliness
  • feeling as though you lost a part of yourself when your loved one died
  • intense emotional pain when thinking about the death
  • avoiding events, objects, or people that remind you of your loved one’s passing
  • feeling “numb”

If you have prolonged grief or feel you don’t have anyone to talk to, you may benefit from talking with a mental health professional. Psych Central’s How to Find Mental Health Support resource can help you find support resources.

Many intense emotions may come and go when you’ve lost someone to suicide. It’s okay to feel angry, guilty, or sad. Recognizing and accepting these emotions is a healthy step toward healing. Remember: there is no “right” way to respond to the death of a loved one.

In a 2017 study of 73 participants, researchers found that individuals who experienced losing someone to suicide reported higher levels of guilt than those who lost loved ones due to other causes. The researchers suggest this is due to the stigma of suicide or the fear of being blamed for their loved ones’ death.

If you are experiencing intense emotions, you aren’t alone. There are some ways to accept your feelings without letting them take over you:

Remember, intense feelings are common after experiencing a loss.

If you have lost someone to suicide, there are various resources available:

  • The Alliance of Hope is an organization founded for suicide loss survivors. They offer ways to honor your loved one, a place to tell your story, and information about the grief process.

If you’re considering self-harm or suicide, you’re not alone

You can access free support right away with these resources:

  • 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.Call the Lifeline at 988 for English or Spanish, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • The Crisis Text Line.Text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.
  • The Trevor Project. LGBTQIA+ and under 25 years old? Call 866-488-7386, text “START” to 678678, or chat online 24/7.
  • Veterans Crisis Line.Call 988 and press 1, text 838255, or chat online 24/7.
  • Deaf Crisis Line.Call 321-800-3323, text “HAND” to 839863, or visit their website.
  • Befrienders Worldwide.This international crisis helpline network can help you find a local helpline.

If you have lost someone to suicide, you aren’t alone. Suicide rates have been steadily increasing since the 2000s, and there is a lot of social stigma surrounding suicide.

You can work toward healing and coping with your loved one’s death by caring for yourself and connecting to support close to you. You can also reach out to a licensed mental health professional trained in treating grief.

There are plenty of available resources for grieving someone you lost to suicide. Seeking out resources can help you learn more about grief, honor your loved one, and even connect you to support groups near you.

Remember, you don’t have to grieve alone; there are healthy ways to cope with grief.